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Wed, Jun. 15th, 2005, 12:22 am
Tikkun Leil Shavuot

The Tikkun Leil Shavuot is the traditional all-night learning session that takes place the first night of Shavuot. Every other year I'd been here, the Hillel had two tikkuns running concurrently -- one run by the Hillel community, and usually taught by members of both Conservative minyanim (the adults generally taught 10pm-1am sessions, and undergraduates taught 1am until Shacharit), and the other run and taught by the members of the Orthodox minyan.

With the undergraduate students gone, the activities at the Hillel were less than usual. As a temporary summer gabbai of the Hillel Conservative minyan usually mostly populated by undergraduates, I, along with DW, decided that we could not run our own tikkun. In the end, the Orthodox minyan cancelled their tikkun, and the other Conservative minyan ran one from 10pm-1am. We (along with two other minyanim) joined with the local shul (affiliated Conservative; runs both egalitarian and mechitza minyanim... it's a long story). It began at 8:50pm with Ma'ariv, followed by a light dinner that was prepared by volunteers(!). The dinner and first shiur had ~120-150 people present. They slowly filtered out, and the crowd was more manageable by the third shiur, although none of the teachers had enough copies of source sheets (which I guess is a good thing!). The sessions were on a diverse range of topics, and taught by members of all the contributing minyanim. At 5am, there were two minyanim, one egalitarian and one with a mechitza. The former had maybe 15-20 present (more-or-less) for all two hours, the latter barely held on to a minyan, and had a few women in addition.

This was the first year I've ever given a shiur, so it was a new experience for me. My topic was the fixed text of the prayer serivce, with a focus on the Amidah. I was originally scheduled for 40 minutes at 2:40AM, but, as tends to happen, I didn't teach until 4:00AM, and had only about 30 minutes (although I was supposed to try hard to keep it down to 20... yeah, right). If you're interested, you can download the source sheet (pdf) (LaTeX source/Makefile)*. At each source, I asked:
(1) Is the source permissive or restrictive?
(2) What conditions does it place on its restrictiveness or permissiveness? and,
(3) What new conditions does it contribute in the decision of whether the text is truly fixed?
I tried to show that even in cases where the order is fixed, personal additions may be encouraged. And... surprisingly, even in cases where *changes* are prohibited, the "needs of the community" can override the fixation. The text of prayer (or, rather, the Amidah) is thus a combination of a core of well respected, traditional texts and additions that are relevant to individuals or individual communities.

Given the time constraints, I couldn't present all the sources, and I probably sounded too dismissive of the discussion while I was trying to keep us on topic. There's always next year.

* Compiling the source requires the Nikud/culmus LaTeX package and the Culmus fonts. It also requires a program to convert from Unicode UTF-8 (which is easy to type in) to CP-1255 (which is used by LaTeX) encoding. One such program is GNU iconv.

Wed, Jun. 15th, 2005 04:04 pm (UTC)

Wow! My shiur this year was a different take on a similar topic, entitled "A Modern Look at the Amida."

Great minds think alike? =P


The Vortex

Wed, Jun. 15th, 2005 09:37 pm (UTC)

I would be interested in seeing what primary sources you presented and what take you had on the issue.

Wed, Jun. 15th, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC)

Eeeep. Four AM? Four AM? They were still that far behind? Did the people after you even present?

Anyway, congrats on having (presumably) managed to sound coherent at that hour in the morning.

Wed, Jun. 15th, 2005 09:35 pm (UTC)

Yes, 4:00-4:30AM. They were that far behind. The person right after me was rushed beyond belief, and the person after him was trying to do a niggun-shiur. A niggun is supposed to relax people and prepare them to think of things on High, but, we were trying to take the room apart simultaneously... poor guy. The last presenter really wanted to avoid having to present, for good reason -- he was busy preparing the meal and didn't have time to prepare a shiur.

Thu, Jun. 16th, 2005 01:16 am (UTC)

Ah, I had noticed that the last shiur of the night looked like it would be about "let's talk about Judaism because our brains are too tired to do anything else", so I'm not surprised the presenter wasn't too invested in it.

It sounds like there was enough adrenaline running to keep everyone awake, though.